Exercises and Resources for Clarifying our Values, Passions, and Desires

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Clarifying Our Values, Passions And Desires

Together, values, passions and desires are closely related to our SoulPurpose. They are essential pieces of the puzzle that is you. The exercises that follow are a selection of some of the more helpful ways we have found to discover them.

Exercise 1 aims to help clarify what your most important values are.

Exercise 2 asks some questions to assist you in checking how well your stated values are aligned to the way you are currently living.

Exercise 3 considers Schein’s “Career Anchors” as a way of clarifying what is of paramount importance to you in your day-by-day work.

Exercise 4 outlines some questions you can ask in order to help identify your passions.

Exercise 5 lists several more questions to reflect on if you want to explore further what your primary values, passions and desires are.


Take a look at the following list of values. This list is by no means exhaustive, so feel free to add others that you may have identified. Divide the values into the following categories:

  1. This is very important to me

  2. This is of some importance to me

  3. This is of little importance to me

  4. This is not something I value at all

Accuracy: Paying attention to ensure correct details.

Achievement: Reaching a goal, completing something.

Activity: Lots going on in your life at a fast pace.

Advancement: Proceeding up a career ladder to seniority.

Adventure: Looking for challenging opportunities; may include an element of risk.

Aesthetics: An appreciation of beauty in natural and human-created surroundings.

Authenticity: Being on the outside what you are on the inside.

Autonomy: The freedom to act as you decide – self-reliance and independence.

Balance: Giving appropriate amounts of attention to each aspect of your life.

Challenge: The desire for demanding projects and tasks that stretch your abilities.

Change: Comfort with ambiguity and unpredictability, less attached to routine.

Competence: Able to meet requirements in an effective and efficient manner.

Competition: Desire to win and match your talents against another.

Conformity: Preferring not to stand out, but to align yourself with others.

Connection: Making deep, lasting relationships with others, and maintaining these.

Co-operation: Working with others in a way that makes and preserves good relationships.

Creativity: Finding novel ways of accomplishing tasks – thinking outside the box.

Duty: The willingness to do what is right regardless of personal cost.

Economic Success: To reach a satisfactory economic position through effective management.

Economic Security: To achieve an economic position for your needs, with low risk.

Education: To learn and/or achieve qualifications for a desired position, influence or status.

Efficiency: Completing a task in an accurate and timely way.

Equality: A conviction that all people have the same rights regardless of gender, race, age, etc.

Faith: To practice and nurture a belief system, and all that this implies in daily life.

Family: Giving time and attention to family relationships and the well-being of your family members.

Flexibility: An openness to new information and ways of doing things.

Friendship: Giving time and attention to friends and caring about their well-being.

Happiness: Finding satisfaction and contentment.

Health: Establishing and maintaining physical and mental well-being.

Independence: Being able to accomplish things in the way you think is best.

Influence: To be able to affect a situation, or have impact on others.

Integrity: To act in a way that is true to your own beliefs, ethics, values.

Justice: The desire to see the right thing done for all – fairness and consistency.

Knowledge/learning: To acquire insight, understanding, and expertise.

Leisure: Pursuit of interests that aid enjoyment and relaxation.

Location: To live in a place that is conducive to your values and lifestyle.

Loyalty: To stick with others (people, organisations, ideas, traditions) through thick and thin.

Order/Organisation: Exercising control over time, methods and possessions in an orderly way.

Personal Development: The desire to reach your full potential.

Physical Fitness: Achieving good physical condition through exercise and sports.

Power: The opportunity to influence, or direct an operation, person, or group of people.

Recognition: To be known for an achievement and receive deserved credit.

Responsibility: To be accountable for a task/person, to be reliable.

Self-Respect: An awareness and appreciation of personal identity.

Service: A desire to help others according to their best interests.

Stability: The consistency over time in people, routine, or actions.

Simplicity: The desire to cut down extra stimulation, possessions and activity to the basics.

Status: Achieving respect and renown for one’s position, possessions, or associations with others.

Tolerance: Openness to the viewpoints of others, without judging them.

Tradition: An appreciation for the ways things have always been done – continuity and stability.

Unity: The willingness to come together and co-operate regardless of differences.

Variety: The enjoyment of unpredictability and different tasks, people and routines.



Once you have established a list of your most important values, it is important to begin evaluating whether your life is actually reflecting those values. If not, some re-alignment may be necessary. Here are some questions to begin that process:

  1. Ask someone who knows you well to read through the list and suggest what they see as your top ten values – examine whether this matches your own list in any way.
  2. You may want to ask people from different aspects of your life to suggest what they think your top ten values are; e.g. family, friends, work or community affiliations. Again, examine how much their list of what they would see as your top ten values matches your own.
  3. Think about the things you put most effort into – do these reflect your values?
  4. Think about how you spend your time – does your use of time reflect your values?
  5. Think about the organisations you are involved in (family, employment, community, etc.). What are the values and priorities in these organisations? How much of a match is there between your values and those of these groups?
  6. What are the trade-offs you make in your life? Which of these are you prepared to continue to live with. What other alternatives might there be?
  7. In what ways might you consider working in a way that is more in line with your values?


One exercise that many people doing our courses have found helpful is based on Edgar Schein’s work on “career anchors”. This involves exploring what motivates and directs your work.

This approach is built on the understanding that people work for different reasons and are motivated by different ambitions. Some people need constant excitement and change to enjoy their work while others like routine and peace. Some need to feel that their work is part of creating a better world, while others just enjoy responding to a challenge.

While we will stick with Schein’s phrase – career anchors – this can be misleading when talking about SoulPurpose. The word “career” tends to be used only for paid employment. You may prefer to use the term “work anchors”, as more appropriate to your role in life.

The eight main career anchors Schein identifies are:

  • Technical/Functional Competence
  • General Managerial Competence
  • Autonomy/Independence
  • Security/Stability
  • Entrepreneurial Creativity
  • Service/Dedication to a Cause
  • Pure Challenge
  • Lifestyle

NOTE: Everyone is likely to identify to some degree with all of these categories. But the label “career anchor” suggests that one is likely to recur as a more fundamental overriding description of you at each stage of your life because it is more closely tied to your self-image.

So … your aim is to discern which of these categories is of paramount importance to you.

Look at the statements under each heading below. Which set of statements resonates with you most strongly? If it is not immediately obvious, you might like to rate each statement from 1-5 from “never true for me” to “always true for me”. Add up the total for each category to see which scores most highly. Then see if it sounds most like you.

1. Technical/Functional Competence

  • I love using my special skills at work (these don’t have to be technical skills – they can be people or practical skills).
  • Being valued for my expertise is more important than becoming general manager.
  • I want to be recognised as very competent in what I do.
  • I like providing expert advice.
  • I would rather leave than change roles away from my area of expertise.

2. General Managerial Competence

  • I like authority and responsibility and dream of being in charge of a significant organisation.
  • I love managing and supervising other people.
  • I enjoy training and directing the work of others.
  • I have a good combination of analytical, interpersonal and emotional competence.
  • I would feel frustrated and probably leave if I felt I couldn’t rise to a significant management position.

3. Autonomy / Independence

  • I want to be recognised for my own achievements.
  • Freedom is more important to me than security. I dream of being free to do my own thing.
  • I like the freedom to do things in my own way and in my own time.
  • I get frustrated by other people’s rules and procedures.
  • I would rather leave than accept a role that limited my freedom.

4. Security / Stability

  • I like structures that maintain predictability and calm.
  • I like completing tasks properly.
  • Security and stability are very important to me.
  • I don’t like taking risks.
  • I dream of a stable job that offers financial security.

5. Entrepreneurial Creativity

  • I love the challenge of starting new enterprises.
  • I have lots of interests and energy.
  • I enjoy having a number of projects on the go at once.
  • I get most satisfaction building something from my own ideas and effort.
  • I dream about building my own business.

6. Service / Dedication to a Cause

  • I need to feel that I am making a worthwhile contribution to society.
  • I find satisfaction using my talents in the service of others.
  • Feeling that I am helping to make the world a better place to live in is the most important thing to me.
  • I would rather leave than accept a role that would undermine my ability to serve others.
  • I dream of having a career that makes a real difference to humanity.

7. Pure Challenge

  • I love work that engages my problem solving or competitive skills.
  • I would rather work on problems that are almost unsolvable than complete an ordinary job or rise to a high position.
  • I find satisfaction in confronting and overcoming very difficult challenges.
  • My strongest desire is to conquer obstacles.
  • I am a very single minded individual when it comes to facing testing circumstances.

8. Lifestyle

  • I want to enjoy work, but it is only one of many parts of my life.
  • I “work to live” rather than “live to work”.
  • I am concerned that work fits (in a balanced way) into the rest of my life.
  • I want work that minimises interference with personal and family concerns.
  • Balancing personal and professional concerns is more important than. rising to a high position or being the best.

How career anchors apply to specific work

When it comes to looking at specific work and roles, career anchors apply more to the kinds of roles you are likely to be attracted to and find fulfilment in.

The anchor doesn’t involve the content or specific field of your work so much as the context, the framework in which you are most likely to flourish.

This is recognition that individuals value and enjoy different aspects of work. Certain aspects are regarded as rewarding or unrewarding. As a result two people might be attracted to the same field of work, but for quite different reasons.

According to Schein…

  • All of us will have one factor that resonates more than any other and which we will constantly search for in whatever work we do.
  • This factor must be present for us to gain any long term satisfaction.
  • It will be the last element we would choose to give away if forced to.
  • If it is taken away, nothing will compensate us for that loss.
  • It is non-negotiable.
  • This is our career anchor.

Below is a brief summary of what we can say about the type of work that is attractive to each career anchor.

1. Technical/Functional Competence

  • Views the content of the work as more important than the context.
  • Satisfaction lies with gaining expertise.
  • Boredom results when there is no challenge.
  • Teaching and mentoring offer an opportunity to demonstrate expertise.
  • Recognition from professional colleagues and peers is rewarding.

2. General Managerial Competence

  • Satisfied when controlling a complete operation or process.
  • Not afraid of stress, in fact often stimulated by an emotionally demanding environment.
  • Looks for high levels of responsibility.
  • Expects promotion on basis of merit and results.
  • Expects financial recognition.

3. Autonomy / Independence

  • Looks for work that offers freedom and keeps options open.
  • Will be frustrated by external constraints.
  • Often highly creative and productive but thrives on independent role; e.g. consultant, contractor, freelance professional. Also independent tradesperson or businessperson.
  • Can work in larger organisations if given freedom.
  • Promotion means more autonomy and rewards appreciated include recognition through awards, testimonials, and prizes.

4. Security / Stability

  • Less concerned about the content of work than continuity and the work environment and relationships.
  • A secure position with steady progress, gradually gathering experience and advancement according to seniority, mark ideal job.
  • Grade and rank system that rewards loyalty is preferred along with pay and benefits and improvements in the work environment.

5. Entrepreneurial Creativity

  • Needs to be involved in creating something new and will get bored quickly if there is not this opportunity.
  • Restless unless opportunity to continually be engaged in creative challenges.
  • Ownership is the most important issue.
  • Looks for the power and freedom to move into roles that are felt to be key ones, with rewards measured in terms of growing enterprises, accumulating wealth and public recognition.

6. Service / Dedication to a Cause

  • Motivated more by involvement that reflects the importance of certain core values rather than the work itself.
  • Looks for work that reflects values such as working with people, serving humanity, caring for the planet, and peacemaking.
  • Wants fair pay, but money is not central.
  • Views recognition and support from the public and peers as reward.

7. Pure Challenge

  • Enjoys careers where competition is primary, either in problem-solving, interpersonal or physical challenges.
  • Rewarded by being encouraged and supported to face new challenges.
  • Will throw away stability and all sorts of other rewards for the opportunity to confront new challenges.

8. Lifestyle

  • Looks for flexibility.
  • Career needs to be integrated with the rest of life.
  • Looks for organisations that demonstrate respect for personal and family concerns.
  • May not want to move geographically.
  • Finds rewarding: flexible working hours, part-time work, maternity leave, sabbaticals, day care options and other signs of organisations accommodating concerns beyond employment.


  • What’s the topic of conversation that will keep you talking into the wee small hours of the morning?
  • What is it that you would be prepared to pay for rather than necessarily be paid for in return?
  • What are the topics of books that dominate your bookshelf?
  • What activity do you do where you lose all sense of time?
  • What is the project you can’t wait to get up in the morning to do?
  • What is the cause you find yourself most drawn to?

Now attempt to write down what your passion(s) are:

Take the time to ask two people who know you well what they think your passions are.


If you are having difficulty defining your values, passions and desires, use the following questions to prompt you – the answer to each may not refer to a value or passion, but by reviewing your answers you may find there are themes associated with a particular one:

  • What are the qualities you prize most in others?
  • What are the things you have stood up for or against in the past?
  • What are the aspects of your life that give you the greatest satisfaction?
  • What are the most important things for us to pass on to the next generation?
  • What would you most like to be remembered for?

Feedback From Friends: Personal Reflections In A Small Group

In the exercises above we have suggested several times that you look for the insight of others regarding your values, desires and passion(s). Use your group meeting for this purpose. Here is a suggested format:

Invite each member of the group to work individually through some or all of the exercises above, and then to select one area to submit to the group. As each member describes his/her personal discoveries, allow opportunity for the group to affirm or enlarge on (and perhaps sometimes to question) those understandings.

Depending on how fully your group wishes to explore these issues, you may choose to allot more than one session to this topic.



Edgar Schein, Career Anchors: Discovering Your Real Values (Jossey-Bass/Pfeiffer – workbook edition, 1985)

Jane Kise, David Stark and Sandra Krebs Hirsh, Life Keys (Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1996)

Michael Henderson, Finding True North (Auckland: HarperCollins, 2003)


A more recent update of Schein’s work on Career Anchors can be found on the Internet at